Forget your signing plans for a moment. Ignore your loan players. What kind of nucleus have you got for next season?
It’s the answer to this question – rather than the intangible hope for investment – that convinces me Sheffield Wednesday are about to step up a gear in the Championship.
Assuming Stuart Gray keeps those he wants on fresh deals, I’ve counted a core of some 14 players around whom the Owls can build a potential push.
Okay, it’s the quality recruited on top that can make the difference but, after much shifting stand, a more solid base is starting to emerge.
Here’s an assessment of the players who can underpin it... Kirkland, Loovens, Gardner, Palmer, Buxton, Mattock, Antonio, Lee, Semedo, Helan, Maghoma, Lavery, Maguire, Nuhiu.
That’s also telling of a few I’d expect to depart, including the mercurial Jermaine Johnson who deserves a rousing send-off for the incredible entertainment he has provided over the years.
Miguel Llera will merit similar acclaim if this proves to be his farewell. Yes, an error-prone defender at times but always a big-hearted team player, a good leader and a scorer of important goals. The future of Reda Johnson, another big character, is tougher to call. Another year maybe?
But Wednesday now have to raise the bar on the consistency they expect from their main players. And, of course, they also need a goalscorer. Or two. But then who doesn’t? Now throw in some anticipated input from the academy via Jack Stobbs and others. Not such a bad start, is it? Quite a mix of ruggedness and quality, some explosive
flank flair too (a constant in recent years). What’s lacking for me is some extra back strength to insure against this season’s injuries and a little more creativity from central midfield. . .
besides the obvious.
Just wondering here how much of an asset Atdhe Nuhiu might become, given an acceleration to the improvement he has shown in the second half of a largely wretched first season. Wretched because what should be his main stock in trade – burying routine-looking headers and other chances – has looked utterly beyond him at times. It’s a puzzle in that his goals have tended to be spectacular.
But the 24-year-old Austrian is a 100% trier and a nuisance to defenders. For that reason, and his obvious devotion to the team above himself, he has rightly been given an even break by the crowd.
Nuhiu brings to my mind another raw striker of a few years back called Grant Holt. He, too, was a wholehearted forward who could hold the ball up well (as Nuhiu can) but who, in his Hillsborough days under Chris Turner, struggled to find the net. He found it later for Norwich, all right!
So I think Nuhiu is well worth perseverance in the hope that, with more confidence, he will add to his game.